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The German VR day: defining the present and future of virtual reality

Written by Jörg Drescher on 09/01/18

Between all the rising VR and AR events you may also find this little gem in Berlin. The 2nd German VR day took place on 7th December and was all about the expanded possibilities of VR in business, beyond traditional applications such as gaming.

With this mantra, a vivid mixture of decision makers, VR specialists and tech enthusiasts are invited yearly by the German Federal Association of Digital Economy (BVDW). Just right around the corner of Berlin Friedrichstraße, in the Telefonica Basecamp, I got to listen to the discussions on where the AR and VR technologies are applied, how they have developed, what innovations are expected, and also to interact with the experts. I took some notes about what I was interested in and would like to share some insights with you.


2nd German VR Day - Berlin, 7 December 2017


New and enhanced immersive VR experiences

Nikolai Bockholt, Creative Services Engineer at Google, gave us a Red Bull Air Race virtual reality flight experience powered by real-time data. It was thrilling to get closer to the high speed air racing action of the real championship. More AR and VR experiences by Google can be found on Daydream, their VR platform which is available for Android mobile devices.

Both Nikolai and Dominic Eskofier, Head of Virtual Reality EMEAI of NVIDIA, mentioned the Star Trek holo deck in their speech as a good example of their vision of VR. Considering the insatiable need of the audience to immerse into new worlds completely, NVIDIA has been focusing its innovations on technologies such as Haptx, a haptic textile that simulates life-like touch, and VRWorks, a suite of APIs, libraries and engines that enable application and headset developers to create VR experiences. The latter contains many rendering features unique to the company’s graphics processing units (GPU), which are designed to improve performance in VR applications. For example, the game development platform Unity supports NVIDIA’s VRWorks rendering tech since version 2017.1. And also, there is a VRWorks-enabled branch of Unreal Engine 4.16 that adds support for this VR API


Virtual employer branding

An example of VR in corporate marketing raised a heated discussion: the pharma giant Merck had a rebrand, and to promote it internally they hosted a Virtual Reality Brand Dome to immerse the employees in the new brand positioning and marketing of Merck. In this case, apart from the visual effect of VR, the added value for the user was to understand and to get involved with the new brand communication and messaging – “by curiosity”, bringing to life the brand’s new tagline “Breakthroughs begin with curiosity”. This experience demonstrates that storyboarding can become more interactive and less linear with VR driven by the curiosity and exploration of the environment by the users.


What’s missing to take VR into mainstream adoption?

All speakers agreed that the consumer-capable glasses are the only missing piece among the massive innovations VR has made in the last year. A study implies that 2020 will be the breakthrough year for VR mainstream adoption and that the visual habits of the virtual residents may have to change. VR will be acknowledged as more than a trend when users embrace this new medium and when more people readily consume VR content on a regular basis and get more active in the virtual world.


Growing application areas in business domains

Until AR and VR become day-to-day technologies, gaming is still the main use case, with games like The Void presenting Star Wars and the Secrets of the Empire. Google has also tried to expand that scope into education with the Expeditions AR pioneer program. However, they are also building applications for business, such as interactive product demos and enhanced in-store experiences for marketing, or complex machinery maintenance & repair in manufacturing.

Some of these use cases from the industrial sector were also shown in the event. Like for Metro Cash & Carry, VR is a great opportunity for the evaluation of customer experiences in shops even before they have been built. The technology allows their potential buyers to go shopping virtually, and their behavior is tracked for virtual evaluation of planned stores.

Another use case presented was of Deutsche Bahn, a German railway company which uses VR for training and remote support. This is a cost-effective solution that replicates the real-world train (the new ICE train) for educational purposes, saving travel costs while ensuring higher knowledge retention.

For all use cases, you need efficiency in the production of 3D content which may be provided by technologies such as volumetric capture and hologrametry. But the list of technologies used to capture the real world into a virtual one is long. And can you imagine? Amazon already offers a preview of how to deliver AR and VR apps as a service with Sumerian – of course delivered from the Amazon cloud.

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Virtual Reality

Jörg Drescher

Written by Jörg Drescher

Jörg Drescher is a Senior Consultant and ECM Business Analyst, specializing in Drupal, at AMPLEXOR. Based in Berlin, he focuses on the introduction and integration of web content management and translation management systems. With 16 years of experience working in software development, professional service, presales and international projects, he’s responsible for identifying customer requirements and lead customer project implementations.

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